Thursday, October 28, 2010


Marcellus shale is a massive rock formation that is possibly the largest source of natural gas in the USA. It extends from New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Marcellus shale naturally traps metals such as uranium at levels higher than usually found naturally but lower than man-made contamination levels.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks in order to tap into oil and natural gas deposits such as those present in Marcellus shale. Millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to blast through the rocks in order to release the natural gas. University of Buffalo scientists have shown that the metals and the hydrocarbons are chemically bonded, so, the process of drilling to extract the hydrocarbons could force the metals into the soluble phase, enabling them to move around. When the millions of gallons of water used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, come back to the surface, it is likely to contain toxic uranium contaminants, potentially polluting streams and other ecosystems and generating hazardous waste.

University at Buffalo (2010, October 27). Uranium in groundwater? 'Fracking' mobilizes uranium in marcellus shale. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/10/101025172926.htm

Further Reading:

Study Questions:
  1. What is the name and chemical formula of the major constituent of natural gas?
  2. What is meant by the term hydrocarbon?
  3. Give the names, chemical formulae, and uses for 3 other hydrocarbons.
  4. Explain what is meant by the phrase "force the metals into the soluble phase".
  5. Is forcing the metals into the soluble phase an example of a chemical or a physical change? Explain your answer.
  6. Explain what is meant by a Chemist when he/she refers to a substance as a fuel.
  7. Is natural gas defined as a renewable or non-renewable fuel? Explain your answer.
  8. Natural gas is combusted for use as a fuel. Is this an example of chemical or a physical change? Explain your answer.
  9. Write a balanced chemical equation for the complete combustion of the main constituent of natural gas.
  10. Of the 3 hydrocarbons you named in question 3, which one would be considered the "best" fuel? Explain your answer.

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